Films & Feni: The Not-So-Rosy Plight of the Rose

Posted on November 28, 2008


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NOV 29, 2008 – I THOUGHT NOTHING COULD BE MORE ANNOYING during a film screening than the barrage of textile and jewellery ads that no Chennai theatre can apparently afford to live without – but I was mistaken. The clip that precedes every single festival feature is far more exasperating. A globe spins madly in outer space, as multi-hued reels of celluloid wrap its circumference in evenly spaced swirls, as if the earth took a tumble in a high school playground and had to be swathed with Technicolor Band-aids. Then the image of a golden peacock takes over the globe, which now descends through the clouds and falls into the calm seas of Goa, palm fronds on one side, the roving beam from a lighthouse on the other. Finally, amidst the tinniest of Films Division music, a sign appears that we are at the IFFI. And as if being reminded of the noble-but-numbing efforts of the Film Division weren’t bad enough, there’s a stall that actually sells DVDs of those documentaries that routinely assaulted us, in an earlier era, before the feature presentation. Is there anyone who’ll pay a hundred bucks to take home Mohiniattam:Through the Ages?

THERE WAS A GREAT DEAL OF CURIOSITY ABOUT MG Sasi’s Adayalangal, not so much because it beat out Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Naalu Pennungal at the Kerala state awards but due to the hunkaliciousness of its young actor, Govind Padmasoorya. Before the film was screened, the director called upon his leading man to the accompaniment of the only squeals I’ve heard so far in the festival. (The announcer too did a fair bit of swooning, by announcing, “This one is the girls in the audience.”) The film, however, merely evoked a hushed, respectful silence. Adayalangal is based on the works of the Malayalam writer Nandanar, and for all its intermittent bursts of gentle power and a gentler beauty, I got the feeling you had to really know Nandanar before the film truly spoke to you. It’s perhaps like making a film that’s carried along by the poetry of Bharathi, and allowing subtitles to convey the emotions. Would it still rip out your innards?

YOU THINK TURKEYS ARE TERRIFIED this time of the year in America? Spare a thought for the rosebushes of Panjim – for I were one, I’d be quaking from the roots to the tips of my slender stems. The amount of greenery that’s been felled simply so that visiting celebrities can be felicitated is simply appalling. Almost every screening has been preceded by the announcement, “May I request [insert name of clueless official] to come up and present a bouquet to [insert name of producer or director or star], and sometimes, when there’s an entire contingent representing the films, the thought of all those dead flowers can make you want to enlist in the botanical equivalent of PETA. Can’t we think of another way to make visitors feel welcome? A takeaway pack of bebinca, perhaps? At least that suggests Goa. What do uprooted stalks suggest other than the murderous impulses of gardeners?

THE AKI KAURISMÄKI RETROSPECTIVE OPENED WITH A SCREENING OF Rocky VI, a rich parody on the Rocky films that were, themselves, beginning to look like parody after a point. The nine-minute silent short contained the biggest sight gag of the festival, this far, when a contender is picked out of nowhere (and literally so: one moment, he’s slurping gruel at the back of the boondocks, the next he’s in the ring, fighting a scrawny opponent who looks like he’s made of matchsticks). Rocky VI was followed by Shadows in Paradise, which, through the romantic entanglements of a garbage man, illustrates beautifully the ways in which we break hearts, and the ways in which we allow our hearts to be broken. Shadows in Paradise isn’t a comedy, but it did allow for the second big laugh of the evening, when the lady in the next seat took one look at the grainy cinematography and exclaimed in horror, “What a badly made film!”

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